Woman admits killing baby boy she wanted to adopt as cruel text messages revealed

A woman has admitted killing a baby boy placed in her care who she and her husband hoped to adopt.

Laura Castle admitted to the manslaughter of Leiland-James Corkill, who died after suffering injuries ‘consistent with an assault’ at their Barrow-in-Furness home.

The 38-year-old denies murdering the child, Lancs Live reports.

Prosecutor Michael Brady QC, told Preston Crown Court that Leiland-James was placed in the care of the defendant and her husband Scott, 34, after they were approved for adoption by Cumbria City Council in August 2020.

They were described as ‘positive’ with a ‘child friendly’ home in the initial stages of the adoption process, the jury heard.

But within days of taking the baby home, it became clear Laura Castle was struggling, Mr Brady QC said.

In the months that followed, ‘frustration turned to hostility’ and ‘physical abuse culminated in murder’, he told the court.

In text messages, the couple frequently called the baby “k***head”, “d***” and “sh**bag” and spoke of “leathering him” and “tanning his arse”.

The day before Leiland-James died, Scott Castle told his wife “a good, hard slap might stop him being a k***head”.

In September 2020, Laura Castle messaged her husband saying she needed to stop smacking the baby, adding: “If I start I’ll not stop at one point and it’s not getting us anywhere and then I feel bad.”

Scott Castle responded by saying he did not like Leiland-James either, adding: “He is a d*** baby. I don’t think any of us want to be that person. You aren’t failing baby, I think you’re doing an amazing job.”

The pair discussed returning Leiland-James to the care system but said other family members loved him, and considered a £170 fee they would incur ‘a waste of money’, Mr Brady QC said.

In November 2020 social workers dealing with the adoption process expressed concerns when Laura Castle said she did not love Leiland-James.

Social worker Beth Taylor reported “they feel as they are babysitting him and have to keep him as everyone else in the wider family loves him”.

In December, case manager Penny Hindle, told the couple she would not approve the final stages of the adoption process until further therapeutic work had taken place to deal with attachment and bonding in the family.

A decision was taken to offer sessions in the New Year but on January 6 2021, Laura Castle called 999 to report Leiland-James had fallen from a sofa and was unresponsive.

He was taken to Furness General Hospital before being transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where an MRI scan showed he had a bleed on the brain and multiple bruises to his head. He was deeply unconscious and critically ill, Mr Bailey QC said.

During the transfer to Alder Hey, Laura Castle said she had only left Leiland-James for a minute to take the dishes out when she heard a bang. She said: “I’m going to prison for this.”

At 3.30pm, Leiland-James was pronounced dead. Doctors were unconvinced by Laura Castle’s explanation as to how Leiland-James had come about his injuries. Consultant pathologist Dr Alison Armour conducted a post mortem and was of the opinion that most of the injuries to the body, head and face were consistent with assault.

The bruising to the head and face were consistent with slapping, gripping, pinching, prodding and poking. A black bruise to the right upper lip and extending onto the lining of the right upper lip could be consistent with forcible insertion of an object perhaps a bottle/drinking cup, Dr Armour said.

Mr Bailey QC said: “The text messages on the defendants’ mobile telephones reveal that in the months leading up to Leiland-James’s death the Castles had referred to him in aggressive and unpleasant terms.

“They had discussed Laura Castle’s use of unlawful physical chastisement in relation to Leiland-James. The Crown says that Scott Castle was not only aware of how his wife behaved towards Leiland-James but, actively encouraged it.

Scott Castle is accused of causing or allowing the death of a child and both parents are charged with child cruelty.

Mr Bailey QC said: “He (Scott Castle) placed his relationship with Laura Castle before his obligation to protect Leiland-James, telling her that she was doing an amazing job and that she wasn’t an abusive parent. He was wrong on both counts.

“He refused to act upon the very clear and repeated assertions made by Laura Castle that she was harming Leiland-James. She even acknowledged at one point that she might not stop.

“Rather than taking steps to prevent any more harm coming to Leiland-James he acquiesced in and encouraged his wife’s actions and even blamed Leiland-James for the situation.

“He may well have been asleep at the time his wife murdered Leiland-James but that doesn’t absolve him of the responsibility he had prior to that to protect Leiland-James. A responsibility of which he was aware and which he ignored.

“The Castles’ general behaviour went beyond bad parenting and amounted to cruelty. Laura Castle’s cruelty to Leiland-James is admitted in the messages to Scott Castle.

“Scott Castle’s cruelty may not have been on the same scale as his wife’s, but he endorsed and encouraged his wife’s treatment of Leiland-James and on his own admission repeatedly hit Leiland-James.”

Laura Castle denies murder and cruelty. Scott Castle denies cruelty and causing or allowing the death of a child. The trial is expected to last a week.

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